2 LAPD officers sue over 'Blue Flu' discipline after calling out sick
The officers say they were illegally disciplined after being wrongly accused of faking illness over a holiday weekend
By Kevin Rector
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Two Los Angeles police officers have alleged in separate lawsuits that they were illegally disciplined by LAPD commanders after being wrongly accused of faking an illness as part of a "Blue Flu" protest action over the July 4 weekend.
Officers Ryan Putman and Meggan Stroup each allege in lawsuits filed in California Superior Court last week that they had legitimately fallen ill and properly used their sick leave to call out, but were nonetheless rounded up with hundreds of other officers who called out sick and punished for a protest they had nothing to do with.
Putman and Stroup each said they were directly accused of being a "Blue-Flu'er" by superiors, and of abusing their sick leave, lying, conspiring with others to engage in an illegal work protest and committing serious misconduct. They each said they were told that their past use of sick leave would be audited, and that an "Action Item" would be placed in their personnel file officially labeling them a "Blue-Flu Officer" — which they described as "an undesirable, damaging and negative moniker" that would follow them for the rest of their careers and harm their prospects for advancement and promotion in the department.
Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman, said the department could not comment on the ongoing litigation.
The Times first reported in the days after the July 4 holiday that the department was investigating an apparent plan among officers to call out sick, after an unsigned letter circulated among officers the week prior encouraging them to call in sick to protect their interests after weeks of intense protests and a decision by the City Council to cut the LAPD budget by $150 million.
"They succeeded in defunding the police; what do you think is next? Our pay? Our benefits? Our pensions? You're God Damn right all those things are in jeopardy now," read the letter, which was obtained by The Times. "We have to send the city a clear message that we are not expendable and we are not going to take this crap anymore."
Sources in the department at the time said up to 300 officers called in sick. LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the department was looking into the large number of officers who called out sick.
"Rather than jumping to conclusions and indicting and impugning the integrity of our rank and file, I'm asking that we explore this," Moore said at the time. "We want to find the facts out before we start making sweeping judgments."
Rubenstein said he could not comment on the outcome of that review, as it was related to the litigation.
Large coordinated sick calls are not common in the LAPD, and are illegal.
Putman, a motorcycle officer in the Valley Traffic Division, said he sent a text message to his supervisor on July 3, advising him that he was taking a sick day. He returned to work on July 4. He said he was oblivious to any "Blue Flu" plan until he returned to work and heard other officers talking about it.
Stroup said she started to feel ill on the morning of July 3 and called out. She was told by a supervisor that she had better get a doctor's note, which she obtained. She said she was urged to return to work on July 4 but still felt ill. She returned to work on July 6, when she heard chatter about the "Blue Flu" plan, she said.
The officers allege that the department treated more than 300 officers who called out sick that weekend the same way, without regard for their individual circumstances. They are each seeking unspecified damages of more than $25,000.
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